MANILA – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang were set to further commit their countries to improving relations in their talks in Manila on Monday.
Their meeting comes on the heels of talks between Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Vietnam on Saturday, in which they agreed to make a “new start” on bilateral ties that have often been strained by territorial and historical grievances.
Abe’s unprecedented meetings with both Xi and Li in such a short period of time is a sign of improving relations.
In their third sit-down meeting since Li became premier in 2013, he and Abe are expected to build on the progress made at the Vietnam meeting, possibly with an extra focus on economic ties given Li’s role in China.
Earlier on the day, Abe, U.S. President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull agreed in Manila to maximize pressure on North Korea in light of its nuclear and ballistic missile development program.
According to the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo, the leaders “affirmed their ongoing close coordination based on their shared understanding of the importance of using every possible means to raise pressure on North Korea to the maximum possible extent, including by fully enforcing U.N. Security Council resolutions.”
More broadly, the leaders confirmed in their first sit-down trilateral meeting since November 2014 “the unshakable bonds of the Japan-U.S.-Australia (relationship), in order to lead (efforts) to ensure regional peace and prosperity,” the Foreign Ministry said.
At the outset of the meeting on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, Abe called the North Korea issue “the immediate challenge facing our three countries, which share fundamental values and strategic interests.”
Turnbull said the three countries share “the same values and the same focus in ensuring that the North Korean regime comes to its senses and stops its reckless provocation of threats of conflict in our region.”
On Sunday in Manila, diplomats from Japan, Australia, India and the United States discussed a “free and open” Indo-Pacific order and agreed to work together based on their shared values.
Abe has previously advocated a “security diamond” formed by the four countries to safeguard the Indo-Pacific region, taking indirect aim at China’s rising influence.